In the meantime, the Obama administration can be expected to grant a series of waivers on doing business in Iran, which will formally go into effect as soon as the nuclear deal is implemented. On Monday, the P5+1 group of nations, which negotiated the deal with Iran, also took the step of meeting in Vienna to create an implementation committee so that sanctions relief and other measures can go into effect as quickly as possible.
But this will only happen after Iran completes a series of alterations of its nuclear program, including the dismantling of some uranium enrichment centrifuges, the reduction of its enriched uranium stockpiles, and the conversion of the Arak heavy water reactor into a form that cannot produce plutonium.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Iranian officials have declared that they will be able to complete all these measures in approximately two months, but Western analysts believe this is far too optimistic. They believe instead that the full range of changes will take six months. Politico quotes Robert Einhorn of the Brookings Institution as saying that it is impossible for Tehran to keep to its projected timeline and still fulfill its obligations “completely or effectively.”
Einhorn went on to say that Iran’s unrealistic expectations may indicate that it plans to cut corners in order to secure sanctions relief more quickly, without fully living up to the expectations imposed by the July 14 agreement. That agreement has had a great many opponents both in the West and in Iran, and while the quick acquisition of sanctions relief may appease some of the latter, it is just as likely to further raise the ire of congressional Republicans and others who believe that Iran is keen to cheat.
Politico suggests that the debate over the deal is still especially strong in Iran but has cooled off in the West, due to the steady progress that it has made toward implementation. But this situation could still reverse. It is presently not clear whether Iran could effectively cheat on its obligations, but it is quite clear that Western critics of the deal will remain attentive to any signs that that might be happening.
Opponents are especially sensitive to this on the basis of the perceived willingness of the Obama administration to look the other way on Iran’s abuses and on possible indications of cheating or deception. The Wall Street Journal called attention to this again on Monday when it pointed out that administration officials said the IAEA’s recently completed probe into the past military dimension of the Iranian nuclear program would have no bearing on Western decision making regarding the future of the nuclear deal.
The report on that probe is due in mid-December, following upon the IAEA’s recent declaration that Iran had narrowly met a deadline for providing the necessary information for its completion. But this subject has been highly contentious, especially in light of information suggesting that the IAEA had allowed Iran to personally handle the collection of environmental samples from the Parchin military base, which is suspected to be at the center of past work related to such components as nuclear detonators.
It remains to be seen whether the IAEA report will be satisfying to congressional Republicans and other opponents or whether it will reflect the same uncertainties that prompted the debate in the first place.
Because of this and other outstanding issues, it is still possible that opponents on either or both sides of the deal could derail it over the long term. Politico says that such obstruction on the Iranian side is unlikely in light of support for the deal from Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. But previous reports have indicated not that the leading cleric supports the deal outright, but rather that he gave begrudging endorsement to the negotiations and subsequently distanced himself from the final agreement rather than making any explicit statement about its value.
Indeed, in recent weeks, Khamenei seems to have strongly emphasized the perceived negative consequences of the agreement, even going so far as to ban his subordinates from engaging in any further talks with the US on other issues. Such rhetoric has contributed to the sense that the deal’s implementation may be on a razor’s edge. In fact, the Jewish Press reports that on Sunday the speaker of the Iranian parliament, Ali Larijani warned that Iran would cease implementing the deal if Western countries continued to issue military threats.
It was not immediately clear what Larijani was referring to, and the Jewish Press emphasizes that his remarks did not mention the numerous explicit military threats issued by Iranian political and military officials against the US and others. “Larijani apparently does not consider those threats problematic,” the report opined.
And Larijani’s position is in direct contrast to that which has been repeatedly advanced by the Obama administration. The US executive has made it clear that it has decoupled the nuclear negotiations from all other issues of Iran policy. This has made the administration subject to considerable criticism suggesting that it is ignoring the Islamic Republic’s ongoing military intrusions in the Middle East, its human rights abuses, and even its hostage-taking of at least three American citizens.
But this perception of permissiveness has led other US government officials to attempt or advocate for compensatory measures, with most of them being focused on limiting the size of the windfall that Iran will receive once sanctions relief goes into effect. Toward that end, Ozarks First reports that Missouri congressmen have begun to push for state-level sanction enforcement, making their state one of several that has already signed onto a “Defund Iran” campaign aimed at expressing a more hardline alternative to the Obama administration’s policies.